Mary I

Queen of England in Her Own Right

Mary I of England, ca 1521-1525. Artist: Lucas Horenbout
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Known for: Heir to King Henry VIII of England, succeeding her brother, Edward VI. Mary was the first queen to rule England in her own right with full coronation. She's also known for attempting to restore Roman Catholicism over Protestantism in England. Mary was removed from the succession in her father's marriage disputes during some periods of her childhood and early adulthood.

Occupation: Queen of England

Dates: February 18, 1516 - November 17, 1558

Also known as: Bloody Mary


The Princess Mary was born in 1516, the daughter of Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII of England. As the daughter of the King of England, Mary's value during her childhood as a potential marriage partner for the ruler of another realm was high. Mary was promised in marriage to the dauphin, son of Francis I of France, and later to the emperor Charles V. A 1527 treaty promised Mary to Francis I or to his second son.

Soon after that treaty, however, Henry VIII began the long process of divorcing Mary's mother, his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. With the divorce of her parents, Mary was declared illegitimate, and her half-sister Elizabeth, the daughter of Anne Boleyn, successor to Catherine of Aragon as wife of Henry VIII, was declared princess instead. Mary refused to acknowledge this change in her status. Mary was then kept from seeing her mother from 1531 on; Catherine of Aragon died in 1536.

After Anne Boleyn was disgraced, charged with being unfaithful and executed, Mary finally capitulated and signed a paper accepting that her parents' marriage was unlawful. Henry VIII then restored her to the succession.

Mary, like her mother, was a devout and committed Roman Catholic. She refused to accept Henry's religious innovations. During the reign of Mary's half-brother, Edward VI, when even more Protestant reforms were implemented, Mary held fast to her Roman Catholic faith.

On Edward's death, Protestant supporters briefly put Lady Jane Grey on the throne. But Mary's supporters removed Jane, and in 1553 Mary became Queen of England, the first woman to rule England with full coronation as Queen in her own right.

Queen Mary's attempts to restore Catholicism and Mary's marriage to Philip II of Spain (July 25, 1554) were unpopular. Mary supported harsher and harsher persecution of the Protestants, eventually burning more than 300 Protestants at the stake as heretics over a four-year period, earning her the nickname "Bloody Mary."

Two or three times, Queen Mary believed herself pregnant, but each pregnancy proved to be false. Philip's absences from England grew more frequent and longer. Mary's always-frail health finally failed her and she died in 1558. Some attribute her death to influenza, some to stomach cancer, which was misinterpreted by Mary as pregnancy.

Queen Mary named no heir to succeed her, so her half-sister Elizabeth became queen, named by Henry as next in succession after Mary.

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Mary I." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2023, April 5). Mary I. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Mary I." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 7, 2023).